goodbye boston, hello london

This is my six part summer spanning two coasts and two continents. It began in Boston College, shifted to Northeastern University, migrated to California, and ended in London. This is how it went…

Part 1: Sophomore Year Ends

quote
a postcard for a friend
  • Writing a twenty page international studies research paper on how levels of materialism differ in highly developed countries wrapped up one of my most challenging and most rewarding semesters of college so far. I worked harder than I had in previous semesters, but I also spent a lot of quality time with truly wonderful friends.
  • After reflecting upon the undue stress I placed upon myself academically throughout the semester with one of my mentors, I came to consider how my gpa is neither the best nor the most valuable measure of who I am. I do not need to prove to anyone (even myself) that I can get a 4.0. Rather, I should think carefully about what I sacrifice in other areas of life when I strive for “perfect” grades. This sounds obvious, but it is easier said than done.
  • When all was said and done, I had about a full week free of responsibility after school ended and before my internship began. During this time, I basked in the sun and read for hours. It was glorious.

Part 2: TJX Buying Internship Weeks 1-6

the view from my northeastern university apartment
  • After wrapping up my duties as a Resident Assistant by checking seniors out of their dorms post-commencement, I moved into my new Northeastern University apartment on Huntington Ave. In these first few weeks, I quickly learned that living within walking distance of the MFA, Fenway, Newbury Street, and Copley Square with the Green and Orange Lines at my doorstep epitomized the phrase: Location, location, location.
  • I went into my merchandising internship at TJX, a global retail corporation, knowing I did not want to work there. Rather, I wanted to learn as much as possible about retail on such a large scale and about working in a pretty traditional corporate environment. Although I went in with an open mind, the notion that business truly is about the bottom line was resounding. Also, I found that I did not mesh with the fact that their culture placed a premium on extraversion, so anything less than interjecting myself into conversations could tarnish my personal brand.
  • Outside of the 9 to 5, I really enjoyed having a routine of going to the gym before work and cooking dinner after. Cooking for myself in particular was one of my absolute summer highlights. I even took a Knife Skills class at Sur La Table to hone in on some chopping techniques I was previously lacking. Have you ever thought about how moving vegetables around your cutting board by scraping your blade dulls your knife? I sure hadn’t, but now I know to use the back of my blade instead!

Part 3: TJX Buying Internship Weeks 7-12

  • After an honest midsession evaluation with my manager, my internship experience rapidly became more enjoyable. I was on a team with dominant, extraverted personalities in a department that was having a tough time. This combination, plus my inexperience with the corporate environment, nudged me back into my shell. Still, I laid it all on the table with my manager and expressed how I felt like no one had tried to get to know me and that I was too often left with nothing to do. She immediately assigned me a continuous independent project, took the time to ask me more about myself, and admitted how she might have made a mistake in the instruction she gave the team before I came. She told them to act like “business as usual” but should have said, “This is probably our intern’s first corporate experience, lets welcome her and make her feel like part of the team.” Those directives set vastly different tones and the latter would have made a world of difference. Nevertheless, I am so grateful to have learned so much about the professional world and who I am/who I want to be/who others are in it.
  • Over July 4th weekend, I visited Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard for the first time with a few of my roommates. We stayed in Hyannis where I was blown away by the beauty of the hydrangeas and where I was surprised to learn it was the home of the Kennedys. Then, after driving through miles of quiet beach towns, we reached the effervescently artistic P-town, a popular destination for the LGBTQ community. Our final stop was a ferry ride away from Falmouth to the famed Martha’s Vineyard. It lived up to the hype.
  • In the two subsequent weekends, two of my best friends from the Bay Area graciously visited me in Boston. Although this meant walking throughout the whole city two Saturdays in a row, I loved seeing Boston through their fresh eyes. And we ate some very yummy food (Veggie Galaxy’s BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich, Broken Grounds’ Strawberry Fields Acai Bowl, Barcelona Wine Bar’s Patatas Bravas, and bychloe’s cupcakes).

Part 4: See You Soon BC

an instagram famous street in boston I only found out about two years after moving here
  • With my twelve week internship wrapping up with an intern group presentation on targeting the Millennial parent, the time came for me to pack up my life. This was quite the feat because I had to determine what would stay in Boston, what would come with me to California (and eventually, London), and how everything would get to where it needed to be. All I can say is that I am glad that process is over. We made it through.
  • My internship ended on a Friday and I flew home on a Tuesday. I intentionally gave myself these few days to wrap up my time in Boston and say goodbye to friends I wouldn’t see for another year. I ended up having some of my favorite days of the summer. Life is so meaningful when you spend quality time with quality people.
  • At the end of my first summer spent in Boston, I can definitively say that Boston—not just Boston College—feels like home.

Part 5: Back to the Bay

point reyes lighthouse (imagine the pacific ocean beneath these veils of fog)
  • Before I went home, I challenged my family to eat a whole foods plant-based diet during my 3.5 week stay. I even created a meal plan and promised to be their personal chef, thus removing any potential room for excuses. Perfection was not my expectation, but effort was. And I’ve been really proud of their effort. At the very least, they have been 90-95% plant-based since I have arrived, which is amazing given that only weeks ago they were daily consumers of meat, dairy, and eggs.
  • Our biggest outing was to Point Reyes. The trip consisted of a lot of driving along excessively windy roads. I probably felt car sick for a solid six hours the Sunday that we went. Yes, it was nifty to visit the foggiest and second windiest place in the country, but I think I’ll stick to the Muir Woods next time we’re feeling an outing north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Home is comfort. Time does not exist at home. My messy room, along with all the other footprints I leave, are merely temporary. At home I bask in the beauty of doing nothing. Sleep. Exercise. Cook. Eat too much fruit. Read. Repeat. I couldn’t do this everyday, but I will make the most of it while I can.

Part 6: To Be Discovered in London…

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the year of two thousand sixteen

spring
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overlooking a quarry in Massachusetts
  • Participated in the LeaderShape Institute, a week-long leadership development and community building retreat that changed my entire outlook on what Boston College could be for me
  • Interned for Date My Wardrobe, which not only taught me about social media marketing and working in a startup, but also introduced me to an amazing mentor, the startup’s founder Amrita Aviyente
  • Explored Rockport, Gloucester, Newport, and Boston with my mom over Easter Break
  • Took two trips to New York, one with a friend to watch Matilda on Broadway and stuff our faces in Chelsea Market, another with my brother and cousins on my birthday to watch Book of Mormon and once again stuff our faces
  • Despite loving General Chemistry, I finally decided to listen to my gut and set science aside in pursuit of an International Studies major with Ethics and International Social Justice track
summer
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sunset in Penang
  • Interned for bonJOY, an ethical subscription box company that features fashion, beauty, and lifestyle goods by companies that support survivors of human trafficking and empower women globally
  • Started a personal website to keep track of my thoughts, readings, and interests (i.e. this)
  • Visited Malaysia for five weeks to spend time with family, with highlights being visiting Bali, eating food in Penang, and attending a Watercolor Brush Calligraphy workshop
fall
cows
picturesque cows in Vermont
  • Balanced being a Resident Assistant to 27 freshmen women, being The Gavel News Editor with four articles a week, and being employed as LeaderShape On-Site Coordinator
  • Was introduced to and impassioned by the Economy for the Common Good, the notion that all economic activity should fundamentally serve the common good of humanity, society, and the environment
  • Became further immersed in the ethical fashion movement through personal interest colliding with a case study for my Social Movements class—committed to only buying thrifted or ethically-made clothing
  • Saw fall foliage and ate maple creemees in Vermont for the first time with my mom and Godmother
  • Learned tons about Internet History, Social Networking Theory, and Social Media Activism in Online Communication and Global Society, even had Gregg Housh (one of the founders of Anonymous) as a guest speaker
  • Was a sophomore leader for 48HOURS, a freshman-only retreat, and did a polar plunge in Cape Cod
  • Dyed my hair purple

Most importantly, 2016 was the year of developing new connections and deepening existing friendships. I am left with overwhelming gratitude for all the people who have entered my life in the past twelve months, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us all.

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trust in the power of yes

trust-the-yes

I was on a student panel today for the Career Center’s Parent’s Weekend presentation. In front of a theater full(ish) of parents, I shared a snippet of my career journey thus far. This is what I learned.

Almost a year ago, I was on 48 Hours, a freshman retreat run by the Office of First Year Experience. On this retreat, one of the activities involved birthdays, and I discovered that I shared a birthday with Biz, the leader of the retreat and Director of FYE. We had a brief conversation that weekend, but afterwards, I sent Biz a thank you email and a brief reflection of my 48 Hours experience.

Two weeks later, I got an email saying that I had been personally nominated for the LeaderShape Institute, a free 6-day leadership development and community building retreat. It turns out, Biz had nominated me. Naturally, I applied and attended. It sounded right up my alley.

LeaderShape turned out to be the highlight of my entire freshman year. It immersed me in a community of like-minded individuals who had greater visions not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world in general. LeaderShape reminded me that I thrive on one-on-one authentic relationships, which was missing from my first semester. And the notions of living and leading with integrity and having a healthy disregard for the impossible set the tone for the rest of my year.

In fact, the Associate Director of the Career Center was my small group leader on LeaderShape, and it was my relationship with him that got me on the panel in the first place.

During the spring, I also interned for Date My Wardrobe, a fashion tech startup in Boston founded by an amazing female entrepreneur, Amrita Aviyente. Amrita turned out to become a great personal and professional mentor for me to this day, advocating for my growth and exposing me to the intersection between fashion and business. And seeing that I had been interested in fashion since secretly wanting to be a fashion designer when I was eight, this internship was a big step for me towards fashion as a potential career path.

That semester, I also took a course called Courage to Know with Biz as my professor. One of our assignments was to do a vocational interview, in which we reached out to someone with a vocation we aspired to or wanted to learn more about. At this point, I was still flirting with the idea of chemistry or philosophy, but was ultimately undecided with my major and unsure of my direction.

However, ethical fashion was on my mind because of an informational interview I did with Esther Chen Meyers, the founder of bonJOY, over winter break. After stalking the LinkedIn BC Alumni group, I came across Esther and was instantly intrigued by her career path. She was kind enough to respond to me, and we ended up meeting one day to chat about her time in college, her career, and her founding of bonJOY. So to find someone I was interested in the vocation of, I googled “ethical fashion companies in Boston”. One of the first links to pop up was The Good Trade.

The founder of The Good Trade, AmyAnn Cadwell, was also kind enough to respond to me and set up a time to FaceTime (she also knew Esther!). Other than being an all-around inspiring and relatable person, she made a particularly poignant point. She said that although saying yes to one thing might mean saying no to many other things, I have to trust that saying yes will lead to other yeses I can’t possibly foresee or predict. There is something inherently uncomfortable about taking life one step at a time without knowing exactly what you’re walking towards. Nevertheless, my experience at BC has really epitomized that idea of one small moment changing everything.

My conversation with AmyAnn encouraged me to explore ethical fashion, conscious consumerism, and social entrepreneurship as a potential career realm. So I reached out to Esther about interning with bonJOY over the summer. And as I’ve said before, interning for bonJOY was a truly wonderful experience because it convinced me of my genuine passion for ethical fashion, so much so that I see the intersection of international studies, business, fashion, and social good as my potential “end”.

And to think that it all started with sharing a birthday with Biz. Had that connection not been made, I honestly don’t know where I would be. But I am so grateful for all the mentors, experiences, and opportunities in the past year that have fundamentally changed or reassured my direction.

Although the path was very unclear along the way (and still is), everything connects in retrospect. Yet, it required putting myself out there to create opportunities and having the guidance of mentors, formal and informal, who encouraged me to discern my passions and follow my gut.

 

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watching a malaysian rainstorm

A nostalgic throwback to when I was in Malaysia only two months ago…


 

I am currently sitting on the 19th floor balcony of my grandma’s apartment in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, and it is absolutely bucketing down with rain. In the past five minutes, I have watched a huge grey raincloud rapidly consume the skyline as less and less light peeks through.

It looks as though my vision has turned entirely blurry, but no cause for worry yet, it is just the sheets and sheets of rain pouring down from the sky. The world is covered in grey mist and not a drop of earth is dry. If only this rain could be brought to my home of California.

The rain no longer falls in individual droplets, but in a billowing waterfall that visibly bends with the wind. A watercolor with no definite lines. The clouds have dropped so low that I can see the rain falling from them at eye level.

Cars continue along the roads below, with drivers behind windshield wipers going at full speed. Gradually, buildings and skylines that were once in sight are now erased by the mist of the cloud. This is the seventh straight day of heavy afternoon rains, but never before have I seen it like this.

The only thing dampening my experience of typing and gazing is the occasional waft of smoke from an undiscerned direction.

I think the cloud is coming closer and closer to me. I feel the mist of the cloud heading toward me with no holds barred. My line of sight has diminished by half and I can’t see farther than a block away. Only the headlights from distant cars are vaguely perceptible through the foggy grey sky.

The smoke continues. I grimace.

My dad walks out and admires the rain, only to comment that he can smell someone smoking cigarettes.

And yep, I am now being rained on. How refreshing. And those headlights I mentioned a couple lines back…no longer visible.

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